The Inter American Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression said that increasing violence against journalists and the impunity associated with these crimes are one of the main challenges of the Latin America and Caribbean region.
The Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) commemorated World Press Freedom Day during its regular session at OAS headquarters in Washington DC, where a minute of silence was observed to pay tribute to the journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their duties.
Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Catalina Botero, highlighted the most important achievements of freedom of the press in the region and the challenges that states of the Americas must address.
“We have come out of military dictatorships and that is no minor achievement. We have solved the majority of armed conflicts and that is no minor achievement either in matters of freedom of expression. All of the state constitutions of the countries here represented recognize freedom of expression and recognize it in a universal way without discrimination,” she declared.
Among other challenges, Botero mentioned violence against journalists and the impunity of those crimes; criminalization of dissidence; the use of indirect means to silence dissident opinion; and a lack of pluralism and diversity in the communications process.
Ms. Botero insisted that “nobody can be judged or incarcerated for expressing opinions that government officials consider offensive or non respectful.” Apparently, this happened recently in Ecuador claimed Ms. Botero.
The rapporteur also mentioned legal vacuums regarding pluralism and diversity and called on OAS member states to develop the legal framework to include social groups that have been traditionally marginalized.
US alternate representative Robert S. Armstrong recalled that according to reports from the World Press Association, 26 journalists have been killed in the region in the last twelve months.
In related news, in Mexico, corporations are refusing life insurance policies for journalists or demanding a significant extra charge particularly for those working in the north of the country exposed to rampant drug cartels’ violence.
The Mexican Association of Insurance Institutions revealed that for several months now they have decided to refuse extending coverage to certain professions among which journalists in “war zones” such as Ciudad Juárez next to the US border.